The Los Angeles Angels are riding a three-game winning streak thanks to a string of dominant outings by their starting rotation.
Now they hope the AL’s top pitcher in July can continue to regain his form when they face the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
Jered Weaver pitched seven innings Monday night to lift the Angels (73-65) to a 1-0 victory over Baltimore in the series opener. That effort followed strong outings from starters Joe Saunders and Kelvim Escobar in Los Angeles’ previous two wins.
Over the last three games, the Angels rotation has allowed two runs—one earned—in 22 1-3 innings. Los Angeles’ starters walked three and struck out 17 in that span.
Those victories have pulled the Angels to within 6 1/2 games of first-place Oakland in the AL West. Los Angeles is seven games behind wild card-leading Minnesota.
“We need the five guys to continue to pitch well. It doesn’t matter who they’re pitching against. We need them to pitch well,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of his rotation.
John Lackey (11-9, 3.63 ERA) tries to build on his fellow starters’ recent performances, and on his first victory in a month, when he takes the ball for Los Angeles on Tuesday. The right-hander was 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA in July to earn AL pitcher of the month honors, but went 0-3 over his next five starts with a 7.07 ERA.
He finally broke out of that slump with a 5-3 victory over Seattle on Wednesday, allowing three runs and nine hits over 6 1-3 innings.
“I was motivated mostly because we needed the win,” said Lackey, who walked none and struck out four. “We had lost a few games in a row, and I wanted to be the guy to win.”
Lackey won his only start against the Orioles this season, holding them to two runs over eight innings in a 9-3 victory April 16. He walked none and struck out five.
Lackey is 4-2 with a 3.92 ERA in six starts against Baltimore.
The Orioles (61-76) will counter with Kris Benson (10-10, 4.78), who’s looking for his second win in two months. The right-hander is 1-5 with a 5.92 ERA in his last nine starts.
He is coming off one of his best outings of the season, however, limiting Texas to two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 7-4, 10-inning victory Wednesday.
“You can’t control things,” Benson said of not being able to earn the win. “It’s just a matter of keeping the team in a winning situation, yada-yada-yada. That’s really all you can do. It’s just a good thing we won (Wednesday). Hopefully over the five starts I have left, I can get a few wins out of it.”
Benson is 1-1 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts against the Angels, but has struggled this season, going 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles.
The veteran right-hander hasn’t won on the road since June 17, which isn’t good news for the Orioles, who dropped to 2-5 on their nine-game road trip and are 25-42 away from Camden Yards.
Angels designated hitter Garret Anderson is 6-for-12 with two doubles against Benson.